Even before the arrival of Jean Claude Ellena, the Hermes name has long been associated with some of the most revered names in perfumery. Edmond Roudnitska gave birth to the first house perfume in 1951 with Eau d’Hermes. Ten years on another perfume great, Guy Robert assisted the house with his classic creation, Caleche. Perhaps a tentative agreement had already been struck in 2003 when Jean Claude Ellena composed Un Jardin en Mediterranee, or maybe this creation was an engagement period between the two to see how marriage would fair. In any case the year after this first launch, Ellena signed on to become the in house perfumer for Hermes and has since created twenty fragrances under this title. The house’s collection can be divided into four expressions; the colognes, the garden perfumes, the novel perfumes and the Hermessence collection, which is only found within selected Hermes boutiques. Of the Jardin series, Mediterranee was the first. Followed by Un Jardin sur le Nil in 2005, Un Jardin après la Mousson in 2008 and the newly launched Un Jardin sur le Toit in 2011. Each scent is designed to transport its wearer to a different garden, whether it be on the banks of the Nile surrounded by mango trees baring green fruit. Perhaps a Kerala garden following monsoonal rain or a fragrant garden on Rue Faubourg Saint-Honore above Hermes’ Parisian headquarters, which inspired this latest creation. Ellena’s Mediterranean garden is a watercolour painting filled with symbolism. Figs, green herbs and sparkling citrus notes convey a story of a Tunisian garden on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Un Jardin en Mediterranee contains none of the milky character of other fig fragrances such as Diptyque’s Philosykos. I recommend trying (on skin) before buying, as this is a less conventional composition when compared to others in the Jardin series. What begins as a bright burst of citrus and fruit gradually transforms into a woody almost tea-like scent with undertones of mature fig. This lollipop opening of lemon, mandarin, orange and bergamot is what I have come to expect from the Jardin fragrances and is something I enjoy. The floral heart is described, as orange blossom and white oleander while the more robust notes are fig wood and cedar. With time the fragrance disrobes, shedding its citrus exterior to reveal a more complex woody character giving credit to Ellena’s expertise. While the green herbaceous elements linger the fragrance takes on another persona when compared to the less mysterious but fun candy beginning.
Since its launch in 2003, fig has hit the mainstream and everyone seems to be doing it, particularly for the home, from designer down to Kmart. I am quite happy to have the scent of Un Jardin en Mediterranee inhabiting my living space and use it in moderation as a room spray from time to time. Hotels are increasingly using signature scents in their businesses and during a recent stay at a Shangri-La hotel I detected an almost identical fig fragrance in their lobby planters. In terms of figs and men, they go well together. Fruit is often used in men’s fragrance as a substitute for a floral theme. DKNY has used apples, Miller Harris, Acqua Di Parma, Diptyque and L’Artisan are no strangers to fig. Hermes has used mangoes. The list goes on. In terms of who should use this fragrance, I think Hermes have carefully considered their target audience and Un Jardin en Mediterranee appeals to them. Sophisticated, well travelled, appreciative of culture and refinement. Simply put, Hermes is a beautiful brand and they make beautiful things. Great as a daytime fragrance this is a nice bottle to have in the back of your wardrobe for times when you feel like a change from your staple perfume diet.
Acqua Di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Fico Di Amalfi, Miller Harris Figue Amere, Carthusia Io, Annick Goutal Eau Du Sud, Maison Martin Margiela Untitled, Acqua Di Parma Colonia Essenza.
Perfumer: Jean-Claude Ellena
Bottle designer: Annie Beaumel adpated by Hermes studio
Release date: 2003
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods